Monday, May 11, 2009
The Grammarian, XVI
Here's a tough one, boys and girls.
First, get out your Lutheran Hymnals. I don't have Lutheran Service Book ready at hand, so I don't know if they preserved the language or not, but in any case, we're going to have a look at the well-loved Charles Wesley Easter hymn, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." It's #193 in TLH.
Let's have a look at the fourth stanza, which in TLH is the last. It runs like this:
Hail the Lord of earth and heaven!
Praise to Thee by both be given!
Thee we greet triumphant now:
Hail, the resurrection Thou!
Now, here's a question for you: to whom does "Thou" in that last line refer?
It could be Jesus, of course, and since in our version it's capitalized, at least the editors thought so. Does anyone see why that might not be the case?
See, it's "Thou," not "Thee." Thou is subject, not object.
What this means is that perhaps it's meant to be written (i.e., edited) thus:
Hail, the resurrection, thou!
That is, a comma follows "resurrection" so that what we get when we parse the sentence and put things in a common order is this:
Hail thou the resurrection!
But there's another problem. Do you see it?
Look at line three:
"Thee we greet triumphant now:"
This would mean that if the number is matched, we might have had to render the fourth line grammatically as
Hail ye the resurrection!
Moreover, in the third line Christ ("Thee") is being addressed, so naturally we would attach the singular again to Him in the fourth line.
What this would mean is that Christ is being addressed as "the Resurrection Thou" in the fourth line, which seems to be adding a philosophical note to the hymn right at the end (Christ the Eternal Subject, rather as the great I AM, etc.)
That, however, seems a bit of a fremdkörper.
So what's the answer?
One needs to find the author's poetic license here, and the weight of selection seems to me to be on the side of "Hail thou the resurrection," thus:
Jesus, we greet you, triumphant now!
(aside, to the worshiper): Hail the resurrection!
In fact, I checked out some sites on this hymn. This site has it as I have suggested, putting 'thou' in lower case. Here is another site which does the same.
Interestingly, this one and this one change the lyrics to "Hail the Resurrection day" which doesn't even rhyme.
So it would seem that our esteemed TLH editors may have goofed, then, as I suspected. They either wanted to make of Mr. Wesley too much of a philosopher, or they got their thees and thous mixed up. And that is something thou shalt not do.
Here endeth the lesson.